Amazing Amaranth

  • Jaspal Bajwa
  • India
  • Feb 13, 2015

A humble plant began attracting attention over 8,000 years ago! The ancient Aztecs believed that the consumption of its seeds imparted them energy and strength. The Greek word for it - ‘amarantos’ - suggested that it was ‘the one that does not wither’. This perhaps alluded to the colourful buds, which stayed vibrant even after they had been dried. This amazing plant has been rediscovered in recent years. The tiny grains of Amaranth, together with its leafy greens and stems, come ‘fully-loaded’ with nutritional goodies. It is now cultivated in almost all parts of the world. Science magazine has called it the ‘crop of the future’ - as it is high in protein, calcium and iron and can be grown at a much lesser cost than other grains. For example, one cup of amaranth has 10 times more iron, six times higher fibre and twice as much protein as white rice. Amaranth has 30% more protein than other plant sources like wheat, rye and oats. The protein content (28.1 grams per cup) is not only gluten-free, but its amino acid complement is very complete (includes Lysine), making the protein more soluble and digestible. Its high protein content, together with its rich content of essential fatty acids (such as heart healthy Oleic Acid), differentiates it from other grains. Highly packed with carbohydrates, proteins, folate, riboflavin, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Vitamin K, Amaranth helps provide a solid energy boost to the body. Its leaves and seeds have been used extensively in cooking as well as traditional medicine. Amaranth is believed to reduce internal heat and dampness and is also used to stop diarrhoea and excessive menstruation.  It is considered helpful in preventing a number of chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke. Amaranth is particularly beneficial for bone health. The body’s ability to absorb calcium is notoriously difficult. This is where the Amaranth ‘combo’, of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and manganese, together with Lysine and L-Arginine, can be most beneficial. Lysine and Squalene also play a role in the formation of Collagen, a substance crucial for sturdy bones. 

Tip of the Week
Tender Amaranth leaves and stems are best for consumption. They should always be cooked before eating. The grain flour can be stored upto six months, when kept in a tightly sealed container in a refrigerator or freezer. Amaranth leaves are a natural astringent and can be used as a skin wash for eczema or acne, and as a mouthwash for sore throat.

Nature’s Wonder Food(s) of the Week: Amaranth or Amaranthus
There are over 60 varieties of Amaranth. Often mistaken as weeds, the leaf sizes can vary as can the colour - ranging from red to green and gold. The health benefits of Amaranth leaves may also differ among its species. Very often this leafy vegetable is cooked like spinach or ‘saag’. In India, it has several names - such as Cholai, Keerai, Chua, Harive, Soppu, Shravani Maath and Khada Saag. In China and South East Asia, it is often served as a stir-fry or as an ingredient in simmered dishes, gravies and dals. In Africa, the leaves are consumed with starch dishes and in the Caribbean, they are very often stewed with garlic, onions and tomatoes. Like any other grain, Amaranth seeds can be eaten as a complement to a meal or by themselves, dry-toasted on a skillet. They can be popped like corn, cooked similar to rice or pasta, or ground to flour (most often blended with other flours). Amaranth can be an exceptional thickener for sauces, soups, stews and even jellies. As a snack, it has a light, nutty or peppery-crunchy texture and flavour.  As with some other greens, Amaranth contains Oxalic Acid, and therefore must be avoided by individuals suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Gout or kidney diseases. Cooked Amaranth shouldn’t be reheated (as the nitrates present in the leaves get converted to nitrites).

For Education purposes only; always consult a Healthcare Practitioner for medical conditions



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